Here is the second study in the discipleship series that I’m writing. It’s the first of three studies based on the creation stories of Genesis 1-2.
I’m going to try to paste it into the blog post, instead of linking it for download. I usually hate what that does to the formatting, but we’ll see.
Again, I welcome your feedback.
- CREATION I. “What Kind of God?”
Genesis 1.1 – 2.4
Many Christians find the Old Testament difficult to understand and confusing to read. A good strategy for getting past this initial barrier when reading the Old Testament is to always be looking for how God is at work in whatever story or text you are reading.
As we go through this study, I want you to learn to think of the entire Bible as a single story about how God works to create, bless, and save. The Bible is “The Story of the Acts of God.” If you approach every story by asking, “Where is God in this text? What is he doing and why?”, then you are more likely to see how individual stories fit into the overall story.
One of the implications of this approach is that, whatever story you are reading, God is always the hero of the story. God is always trying to do something good for his people, even in the most confusing stories, or the stories where he seems to be absent.
Also, remember that God sometimes decides to bide his time and allow his people to hit “rock bottom”, allow them to face the consequences of their bad choices. This is God’s discipline, designed to correct his people and teach them what NOT to do.
So: God is always the hero. Sometimes this means we find the point of the story by figuring out what God is doing. Other times, the point is in the consequences for God’s people when they don’t do what God wants them to do. Other times, the point of the story is in how it describes God and his actions. God, who gave us the Bible, trusts us to prayerfully figure this out.
READ GENESIS 1.1 – 2.4. As you read it, notice what phrases / events / actions are repeated.
- What things did you notice that were repeated?
Scholars have shown that this text is built around repetitions of 3, 7, and 10. Notice:
- In the Hebrew text, Gen 1.1 has 7 words.
- Gen 1.1 – 2.4a consists of 7 sections.
- The Hebrew of Gen 1.2 has 14 words.
- The Hebrew of the paragraph referring to the Sabbath (2.1-3) has 35 words.
- Significant Hebrew words that occur in multiples of 7:
- Elohim (“God”): 35 times
- Eretz (“earth”): 21 times
- How many commands does God give in 1.1 – 2.4a? (Ten)
- Other repetitions in 1.1 – 2.4a:
- “And God said” (10 times)
- “Let there be” (7 times)
- “make” (7 times)
- “firmament” or “expanse” (21 times)
- “according to their kind” (10 times)
- “and it was so” (7 times)
- “God saw that it was good” (7 times)
- God “blessed” (3 times)
- God “created” (3 times)
What is the point? Do 3, 7, and 10 frequently appear in the Bible? With symbolic significance?
- Do you notice other things that seem especially significant?
- This is a text where the point seems to be found in the way it describes God.
- If this story was ALL that you had to study, what would you be able to know about God?
- A different way to ask the same question: If you had to describe God, and all you had was this story, how would you describe him?
- How does this story describe God? What I notice is that he is …
- Personal (not an impersonal force; conscious, w- intentionality)
- Powerful (he speaks & it happens)
- Organized (works according to a plan)
- Benevolent (he blesses)
- In charge (no one competing with him)
- Artistic (he creates beautiful things)
- Social (he has relationships)
- This text compares God as creator to the creation stories of other ancient nations. The most interesting comparison is with Marduk in the Babylonian creation story, the Enuma Elish.
Marduk was the Babylonian storm god. His grandmother, Tiamat, was a great serpent who ruled over the sea.
Tiamat hated Marduk (her grandson) and tried to kill him. Marduk defeated her, and left her corpse floating in the sea. Her body became the dry land. Her blood became the people.
What does this story tell you about the way Babylonians looked at the world? What would you guess their relationship to their gods was like?
According to Genesis 1 – 2, how is Israel’s God different?
- This is an important point: the Jews were using these stories to remind themselves and teach their children what God is like.
You can describe God a bunch of different ways. One of the best ways is to tell a story.
Think: if you were describing a friend or relative to people that didn’t know him/her, wouldn’t the description be better (more vivid, more impactful) if you included stories about that person?
- This also brings us to an important idea about how the Bible works in our lives. THE BIBLE IS TELLING US A STORY about God, and how we relate to him.
The world is full of stories. In some stories, there is no god or God. In other stories, God exists but he doesn’t take much interest in peoples’ lives. He is remote and disinterested. In both these scenarios, we are on our own. We make our own meaning, our own right and wrong, our own heaven and hell.
What the Bible wants is for us to read its story and believe in the God IT describes. If we believe in the God the Bible describes, then we will live our lives differently than we would if we believed a different story about him and us, and the world around us.